Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: The Change-Up

The Change-Up is a textbook example of good cast / bad movie.  There are so many places where this film goes wrong that it’s hard to find a good place to begin the critique.  If I had to pin it on one thing I would say that Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman are two very funny actors, but are way too similar in their respective styles to sell the brand of comedy that director David Dobkin is trying to sell for nearly two hours (30 minutes way too long).

The straight man/funny man shtick is a classic and when done correctly can be incredibly entertaining (think Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin or more recently Vaughn and Favreau in “Swingers”).    The reason why this formula fails in “The Change-Up” is because while Bateman is adept at playing the straight man, both he and Reynolds draw their comedy from a wry sarcastic delivery.   One person has to set up the proverbial pins so the other can knock them down but unfortunately there’s not enough of a contrast between the two actors to properly set up the punch lines.

Another major issue with this film is that it is just not funny.  When you think about “switch” movies – Freaky Friday and the Hot Chick – there are significant visual differences between the protagonists (age, gender, appearance) that lend to physical (and often absurd) comedy.   In this film, we have one Caucasian male in his 30’s trading places with another.  Wow - mind-blowing!  And true to form, they figure out how to solve their own lives by walking a mile in each other's shoes – not too bad a gig when you’re walking that mile with Leslie Mann or Olivia Wilde

So then what we’re left with here is a raunchy comedy that is not funny and that wants you to be emotionally invested in the third act to characters that amount to little more than two jumbled masses of tired clich├ęs.  I found more catharsis in watching Judge Reinhold of Beverly Hills Cop fame and Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage of the Wonder Years) do this song and dance back in the 80’s classic Vice Versa

Avoid this movie – in fact, avoid most of what Ryan Reynolds is doing while he is the midst of a “Nick Cage Cash Grab” because he is on an epically bad run not seen since well…since the run that Adam Sandler is currently on.  Do not rent, do not VOD, do not watch even if it is for free.  You have been warned.

Standout Performance: Alan Arkin really sells his role as Reynolds’ dad, but that performance gets lost in the mediocrity.


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